FIRE LOSS OF A YEAR IN BOSTON

FIRE LOSS OF A YEAR IN BOSTON

Former Fire Commissioner Benjamin W. Wells, who retired from office on January 31, 1908, and was succeeded by Samuel D. Parker on February 1, of this year, in his report of the fire department of Boston for the year covering the period between February 1, 1906, and February 1, 1907. In it the former commissioner points out that the year was a hard one for the department. While there was no extra serious fire, several of dangerous and threatening proportions occurred, and the number of small and incendiary fires exceeded all record. The average number of bell-alarms for the past ten years was 1,596; in 1906-07 it was 2,441. The average number of still alarms for the past ten years was 1,165; during the past year, 1,600—a total of 4,041 bell and still alarms, against an average of 2,762 for the same period, and exceeding the largest number of any year by 826. The total loss for the year, though large, was not excessive—a result in great part due to the excellent service rendered by the officers and men under the very capable direction of Chief John A. Mullen. The discipline was “excellent, the work at fires quick, efficient and intelligent, and the good discipline has been further demonstrated by the excellent conduct and appearance of the men and the neat and orderly condition of the houses and apparatus.” That the houses are so fair to see and their sanitary condition so good is due to the men themselves, who did the work, when not on leave or engaged on fires, the only expense being the cost of the material furnished for that purpose. The city council, after two years’ inquiry, has given in to the request for the purchase of a new fireboat, to cost $75,000 an addition to the fire-fighting equipment whose importance “cannot be overestimated. Many times the cost of the boat has been lost by this weakness in the service on the water front. An accident to the present boat, engine 44, considering the condition of the old reserve boat, engine 31, would be most serious.” Repairs and rearrangements of some of the firehouses will also be carried out; a new apparatus-house in the Forest Hill section, and new quarters for the fireboat crew will also be provided. During the year, three engines, two automobiles and seventy-two extinguishers have been purchased, while in the repair shop an 89-ft. aerial truck, two extrasize hose wagons, one chief’s wagon, one firealarm wagon and 105 ladders from 15 to 65-ft. —a total of 2,345 ft-—have been constructed, and two ladders have been rebuilt. For the better government of the department an entire revision of its rules and regulations was made, and the book containing these was issued on January 15, 1908. “The duties of the officers are set forth in much more detail, and every branch of the service is fully covered. Closer co-operation has been extended between the departments of fire, building and insurance with good results. Reports of defective buildings received by the building department are forwarded to the fire department. All conditions reported by district chiefs calling for the attention of the building department or the hoard of underwriters are forwarded to them. By arrangement with the board of underwriters. the regulation of roof-signs on buildings has been continued, with good results. Under the law, the fire commissioner has authority to order the taking down or repairing of such abandoned buildings as may from their condition constitute a fire-hazard. Acting under this law. for the first time, a considerable number of such buildings, on notice from the department, have been taken down as a firerisk. and the sanitary and landscape conditions at the same time have been improved.” The report considers that the fire commissioner should have power to fake down all such buildings, many of which constitute not only a health, hut a fire-hazard. Thtrouble about them has hitherto been the difficulty amounting almost to the itnoossihilitv of secur*”” action because of uncertain, divided or absentee ownership, rendering court action, where possible, very slow and uncertain. One feature in the work of the department is alluded to in the report for the first time in the history of the fire-service—nameiy, that of frequently calling on the firemen for assistance in removing persons caught in elevators. This, in most cases, necessitates cutting the floor or frame. Saws and other tools specially adapted for this class of work, placed on some particular hook and ladder trucks, have greatly facilitated the task of freeing the persons so imprisoned, increased the chances of saving life and lessened the suffering. A set of rules governing the theatres has been put into effect, and the managers of these places of amusement have willingly co-operated with the department in its endeaver to bring about safe conditions. To obtain a license for opening theatres, public halls and similar places, the application must first go through the mayor’s office, where only lies the power of granting it, nor is that possible till the recommendations of the department as to fire-extinguishing apparatus and other safeguards have been complied with. The result has been that their regulation and supervision are accomplished much more thoroughly and systematically than in the past. To get the department more quickly and more easily to a fire twenty new boxes have been installed in public streets, six in private business places, two in institutions and six in school buildings, and twenty boxes have been equiped with keyless doors, completing the work. The arrangements made for mutual assistance with the neighboring cities and towns have been continued, and this mutual assistance plan should be taken up in a more comprehensive and definite way, closer co-operation provided for and advance arrangements more in detail made to cover the Metropolitan district. Many other improvements of minor importance, and not least in the firealarm telegraph system have likewise been made. The report also makes the following recommendations: Engine No. 16 to be rebuilt; replacing No. 10 with a lighter engine; 2 first-size and 4 second-size new engines to be purchased; ladder No. 18 to be equiped with quick-raising devices, and ladder No. 4 to be replaced with 75-ft. quick-raising aerial truck or light single-tank; combination truck to be installed at Roslindale, Jamaica Plain and Longwood avenue; new water tower, with Monitor nozzles; 6 chief’s wagons; a double apparatus-house to be built in Forest Hills square and a single company and apparatus to be installed for the present; also a special appropriation to be made for a firehouse in Lauziat avenue district of Dorchester; also a largesized engine for chemical company No. 3, Charlestown: water tower No. 2 to be overhauled and placed in reserve. The call force should be abolished and permanent men substituted to serve in Dorchester, West Roxbury and Brighton. The report also urges the extension of the high-pressure water-service by utilising the water of the Charles river basin. A salt-water fire system about 1 mile in length was established in 1898 on Central and Exchange streets and Postoffice square and Congress street connections were made at Central wharf, so that the full capacity of the fireboat is available at any point on the pipe-line. This limited area should be added to when the Charles river basin is completed to, as then a large lake will be formed from which an unlimited amount of fresh water is available for the downtown and other sections of the city. The report recommends the addition of self-propelled apparatus and the purchase of automobiles for the use of the chiefs, which would be great helps in the way of inspection and of conveying injured firemen to hospitals. As to the water supply: The report points out that “while the fire department is keeping pace with the rapid building up of the suburban sections, the water mains, small and laid many years ago, are proving entirely inadequate when called upon for the extra services required by the new conditions. Larger and more engines respond to alarms, larger nozzles, Siamese connections, etc., are now used, making a heavy draught on the water supply, and at times this has almost entirely Tailed. * * * In view of the very hazardous type of buildings being rushed up in certain sections of the city, this subject of increased water supply demands attention. So, also, does that of new building laws for Roxbury and other sections, where structures are apparently being erected not in accordance with safety and common sense. Given a high wind, delay in giving alarms, inadequate water supply, and the Boston fire department, with its equipment and force at its highest efficiency, conflagration conditions for certain localities exist.” Stable conditions, also, should be investigated, so as, at all events, to lessen the great and cruel loss of horses that is so constantly recurring. The report also recommends that there should be a pension scheme tor the drivers of the chief’s wagons—boys or young men. not regularly enrolled as members in the fire department, with small pay and yet at times exposed to dangers as great as those of the regular firemen. If seriously injured there is 110 pension for them. Their rating ought to be so changed by the civil service commissioners that they should be made regular members of second-class standing, and they should be preferred as to appointment to the position of first-class firemen. There are 44 steam fire engines, and as many hose wagons in service, and one fireboat, with Tl engines and 6 hose wagons in reserve. Of chemical engines there are 12, self-acting, besides 5 in reserve. Twenty-seven hook and ladder trucks do duty, including 5 extension ladder trucks, besides 6 in reserve. The water towers are three in number. There are 4 automobiles, 30 fuel and supply wagons and 45 pumps. Portable extinguishers are carried on all of the ladder trucks and hose wagons and located in the department houses. Seven hundred and six firealarm boxes are in service; 309,338 ft. of underground cable are in use,

CHIEF JOHN A. MULLEN, BOSTON, MASS.

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